Thursday, December 27, 2007

Merry Christmas - A Couple Days Late

It has been a long time since I posted anything. There are several things to account for that. The first is that I watched the first two seasons of 24. I have never watched the show but have so many friends who are addicted to it. I have to say that I like it, but it is addicting. I only have two seasons in my house, but I am sure if the third had been here, I would have started watching it also. I think I will wait to see the third for a while. We were also busy planning and preparing for the Christmas Eve Service. I had several adoption cases to finish before Christmas.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! We did. It was somewhat stressful until Christmas day, but we had a very relaxing Christmas day. We missed our family and friends, but it was still nice. We did not shop until just a few days before, but that was nice. Brent and I got away overnight, which we needed so much, and we shopped part of the time. We did not buy nearly as much this year. We have decided a couple of things. One is that we are going to buy one together gift for the kids at Christmas, plus stocking stuffers. Hopefully it will eliminate all of the junk that accumulates in our house. It also allowed for better use of our money. We did not spend as much and purchased two oxen and a plow for a village in a third world country with the extra money we would have spent. This year we bought the kids an Air Hockey Table. They are enjoying it.

I cooked Christmas dinner. I don't really like to cook a lot (although I have gotten better), but the meal turned out nicely. I was a little nervous about cooking a turkey for the first time, but it was good, and even my gravy turned out. That is a huge deal around here - I have never made gravy that had the right consistency. Eric came over to eat, then afterward, we were just all exhausted and laid around on the couch while the kids played. I dozed off a couple times!

Christmas Eve we had a service with all of the Independent Christian Churches in the area combined. We did the majority of the planning and preparing, and it was held in our facility. It turned out nicely, but I will say we were thankful when it was over ane we could relax.

As I look back over the year, I feel so grateful for all of God's blessings! I am completely humbled by the fact that he took the form of a man and came to this earth to live and experience life like us and then be sacrificed so that you and I can live eternally with Him. I am so undeserving! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas! I will try to post some pictures later.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

So Much Happening

It was a crazy week last week. We had our preview service on Sunday and had great friends, the Bergs, here to visit. It was a good week, but just incredibly busy. I don' t know even where to start.

Our visit with the Berg's was not what I had hoped, though it was such a huge blessing to see them! I wanted to just be able to spend lots of stress free time with them, take them up to the Sequoia's and talk and share life. Well, they definitely shared our life and got to be an important part of the very first actual service for the church, which was way cool! But I felt terrible that we did not have the time to take them to the Sequoia's or anything. Friday and Saturday they were a tremendous help for us as we got things prepared - cleaned children's toys, set up cabinets in the children's ministry room (They won the race and even helped with a second cabinet!!!), set up chairs, bought last minute things, etc. Then they attended the service and helped us tear down. We fed them late meals and worked them to death. We did get to enjoy Sunday and Monday. We hoped to get away, but things did not work out. However, our friends, the Limiero's kept all four of our kids from the time church was out until after we got back from the airport the next day. We showed them around Bakersfield - the beautiful parts and the really ugly parts. Then we returned to our house and sat around debating ministry issues before we played board games. We were up late, then slept in the next morning. We then went down to Burbank for lunch and to get them to the airport. Because of a huge wreck on "The 5" we were routed to the 405 and ended up at Santa Monica. They were able to see and have a picture by the ocean, then we had an excellent italian lunch before heading back up to the airport. It was a nice day! Jeff and Courtney, I hope you guys know how much you mean to us!!! I know it was a hard weekend, but we love you and appreciate you!

Our service went amazingly well! There are things we will adapt and change, but overall it was great! We had five families attend that had not been involved with our launch stuff at all. There were lots of volunteers from the other churches with a total attendance of 68. We were thrilled, considering we did no advertising for this one. It seems like children's ministry went well, and the kids enjoyed it. Our facility is wonderful!!! We are so incredibly blessed! One person that attended the service told Brent he did not understand the preview service and thought we should just continue on every week. Parts of me wish that was possible, but right now we have so much to get done before January 13th that we need the time. It was encouraging, though, that someone was so excited! People expressed excitement over the Service Sundays, which is good, too. It's a little out there to actually not have a regular service one Sunday a month, so we have wondered how people will respond, yet we feel convicted that this is incredibly important to help keep the church outwardly focused, so it's nice to hear someone catching the vision.

The final thing I want to touch on is Spiritual Warfare. We have been warned over and over about spiritual warfare in church planting. We have felt pretty blessed in that things have flown smoothly for the most part. There have been moments, but I don't think all of that has been spiritual warfare. But I definitely think I experienced a lot of it this past week. While I tried to prepare myself, I didn't do a very good job. This time it came in such an unexpected way. I know that the next six weeks could be filled with even more. I guess I would just ask for extra prayers surrounding this. We just want to be good tools, and even today I have felt so emotionally overwhelmed with things that I have not been able to accomplish things that need to be accomplished. I'm sure that Satan is just smiling from ear to ear as he watches me being paralyzed in my emotions.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unfortunately I did not get any good pics on the actual day of Thanksgiving while we were down with my relatives. I don't know what I was thinking. We had a great time, and it was such a cool deal to be able to spend a holiday with them. I know it will happen more now, but it has been since my childhood that I actually was with those cousins for a holiday, other than Memorial Day. We had a good time!

I did, however get pictures of us with the Weichbrodts on the following day at the Getty Center Museum. Here are a couple. It was such a fun afternoon, and it has been a long time since we have seen that many of the Weichbrodts. With everyone growing up, it is hard. Noel and his wife, Elissa, were not there, but everyone else was.




While my dad was here, we found a beautiful park in Bakersfield that we had not run across yet. It is up where the river truly runs. For those of you who we haven't told, Bakersfield has a river bed that runs through it. Only if there is enough water, is the river running. They actually pump the water out of the river and to somewhere (I'm sure Brent knows where.). If there is enough rain, then the river is "turned on" at Memorial Day. Yes, they actually say "turned on", and when there is not enough rain, like this past summer, the news anchors say things like the river cannot be turned on yet. It is so strange. Anyway, the river is beautiful if you drive Northeast enough to see it! The kids loved throwing rocks in the water, even Sarah!





Here is a nice picture of my dad with the kids. I have been trying to get a good picture of all of them for a while. Finally! We had a nice visit with him. I'm glad he got to see our house and the location for the church and the city we live in. He was able to discover that there are some very nice parts of Bakersfield! It was fun for the kids to have their grandfather around. They spent quite a lot of time wrestling with him. While he was here, we got out most of the Christmas stuff. I love it when the house is decorated for Christmas. It seems so warm and inviting, so I took some pictures of that too!





Finally, a quick note to those of you who read my post last night - there was no crying while tinkling today!!! That's quite the note to end on!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Day in the Life of Potty Training

Quickly, I just wanted to say that today was a good day. Sarah wore panties all day with the exception of naptime and a quick run out to the store this evening. Things are improving! However, she hates to go. I have never experienced anything like it. She holds it as long as she possibly can, then when she finally can't anymore and she starts to tinkle, she cries and cries, like she is in pain. But when she goes in a diaper, she does not cry. It's like it scares her or something. I can't figure out what the deal is. By the time she went before bed tonight, she did not cry, but she did the rest of the day. I told Brent that if it doesn't stop, I will have to call the doctor. Has anyone ever been through something like this?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Potty Training - A Small Step Forward!!!

Before we made our move back in May (over six months ago), Sarah was working on potty training herself. We decided not to push it because of the long drives in the car and figured that when we got here, we would just get it done quickly. However, she often went on her own, removing her diaper, then running to tell us when the potty chair was full. So, when we got here, I was bummed to find out that she wanted nothing to do with her potty chair, or any toilet for that matter. I know that kids regress during big changes, and that is exactly what happened to Sarah. In our almost seven months of being here, she has only used the toilet on two occasions (plus tonight) that I can remember. She was doing that each day in Oklahoma. But, even more frustrating, she has been wearing underwear part of the time but absolutely would not go on the toilet or potty chair. When she had to go, she would cry and beg for a diaper. If I sat her on the potty, she cried even harder. So, I decided to just let it lie for a while. I would mention that big girls use the toilet and stuff like that, but did not put panties on her or put her on the potty.

Tonight, however, I picked her up to leave, and she did not have a diaper on. I was running late, so I just left her that way and told her not to go in her pants. We know she can hold it based on the begging for diapers situations. We took Jason to tutoring, then ran to the store, then picked Jason up from tutoring and stopped at Albertson's before coming home. We stopped once to try to go to the bathroom, but she did not go. While in Albertson's, I was paying, and she started yelling that she needed to go potty and holding herself - made a lot of people laugh. I ran her back to the bathroom, but she did not go. We came home and tried again. She still did not go. She asked for a diaper but I decided we were going to sit on the potty chair instead. I grabbed some books and into the bathroom we went. She sat there listening for a few minutes, then she stood up and started crying and begging for a diaper. I told her she could not have it and sat her back down. Obviously, she had reached her limit on ability to hold it because she went. She cried like she thought she shouldn't be going in her potty chair, but when it was over, she was happy as could be and got a little reward. It was bedtime by this time, but she did not want a diaper on and wanted to get another reward. I made her go to bed - we will see what tomorrow holds, but I feel at least a little encouraged and hopeful.

Sorry if this is more information than most of you wanted to know, but there are silly joys in motherhood, and this is one of them. It seems worthy of sharing!!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving

We have so much to be thankful for!!! My dad is here, and we have enjoyed his visit. It's so nice to have him here to see where we live and to just catch up. It is so much niceer to talk in person than over the phone. We spent Thanksgiving Day at my aunt and uncles down in San Diego. It is so beautiful down there!!! It was nice to be with family. I have three cousins who were there, as well as their children. Two of my cousins wanted us to write down for them what we are thankful for. My list could have gone on and on, and it just made me stop and think about how incredibly blessed I am. I have a wonderful, healthy family. My husband is fabulous and he loves the Lord and wants to be obedient to the Lord, and he loves me! My children are fun! The oldest two are committed to Jesus and are doing their best to be the boys that God wants them to be. My youngest two are just sweet and loving and smart. My parents love me and my family and want the best for us. Brent's parents love me, too, and are so good to us! We have had a huge transition this year with very little difficulty. We have made friends and are enjoying all of the new relationships. We have amazing friends in Oklahoma and around the country who we miss so much! God supplies all of our needs and more, financially and otherwise! I could go on and on. I am most thankful for the sacrificial love of God. I look at my children and can only begin to imagine how hard it would be to give them up, yet He did so eagerly for me and you. It's uncomprehendable.

We had an incredibly special treat yesterday. On our way down to San Diego on Thursday, I remembered that the Weichbrodt's (great friends and mentors to us) were planning to be in LA with their son for the holiday. We called them, and sure enough they were there, so we were able to meet with them yesterday at the Getty Center (a beautiful, and FREE, museum in LA). We spent about four hours with them. Everyone in the family was there, except their oldest son, who is married and lives in St. Louis. We have not seen all of them in a long time. It was a great afternoon!

My dad leaves tomorrow, and we will miss him. I feel teary already. Luckily the week will be drowned in the busyness of preparing for our preview service on Sunday and preparing for our anticipated visit with the Berg's. We cannot wait for them to arrive! I definitely think Christmas will be hard. I already feel some pangs of loneliness. Christmas music and Christmas trees just make me think of Bartlesville and family and friends. I am missing traditions, like cookie baking at the Casselberry's, the cookie exchange we used to have with ladies in Bartlesville, sitting around in a circle on Christmas Eve while Stephen read the Christmas Story, and I know there will be other things that crop up. But, again, I am so thankful, and I don't want to get down. We will start our own traditions here, and I am excited to see what those will be.

I'm off for now! Have a good night!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"I love myself!"

I have a few things to post about, but I just have not felt motivated to type. I thought I would start with this very cute story about David!!! For those of you who do not know him as well, he is my most trying pre-schooler, but he is also my most vocally loving and affectionate child. He is incredibly grateful and incredibly complimentary, which has really been a blessing to him when he has been completely destroying something or being totally mischievous!!! When he gets a gift, it can be underwear, and he still says the sweetest, most endearing and sincere thank you! It makes you want to buy and buy for him. The other night, he asked Brent for a movie, and when Brent came home with the movie, he ran to Brent, hugged him and said, "You are so awesome!" He does this regularly, and he particularly likes the word "awesome", which brings me to my current story.

Last night we had a family game night on the Wii. We played boxing and dodge ball and tetherball. Anyway, in the middle of the game, he looked at Brent and said, "Dad, you are awesome!" Then he told me I was awesome, then James, then Jason, then Sarah! When he was finished there was a pause, and he said, "I love myself!" It made us laugh. I don't know if he was waiting for a return complement, and when he didn't get it from us, decided to do it on his own or what, but it was so funny! I'm glad he has a healthy view of himself. Hee! Hee!

Maybe it is not as cute on a blog, but it was precious at the moment! It's moments like those that just make being a mom the greatest joy in the world!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Swimming and Scenery



These are pictures of David and Sarah at swimming lessons. They aren't the greatest, but they give you some idea! They have been loving it. Although, Sarah was very attached to her instructor, who left for the coast guard. When she got her new instructor, she cried for three lessons, but I think she is better now. David is pretty much swimming on his own. He will be excited to show Gramma Casselberry when we are home in the summer!!!





My mom was here to visit, so we went back up to the Sequoias. My friend, Courtney, who is coming in a couple weeks, asked if we were so tired of going there that we would not want to go with them. I don't know that we can get tired of it. It is absolutely so beautiful!!! the trees are amazing, but so is all the scenery when you are driving up and down the mountains. God is such an amazing Creator.
I have some other stuff to post about, but we have to get ready for church in the morning. Christ's Church of the Valley is commissioning some of their people to go with us to help with the church plant! We need to finish the information sheets that we are taking. It has been so busy that we didn't get it done before now. We decided to take most of this day and rest and hang with the kids! Maybe I will post a little more later!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A quick update

My mom arrived yesterday! It's great to see her. We have not seen her in over a year - the longest I've ever gone without seeing her. We are glad to have her here. She is only able to stay until Monday morning, so we are just enjoying our time while we can. She makes great salsa, so I took her to a highly recommended Mexican grocery store today to buy veggies and such. I could not believe this store. They had produce and meats and all sorts of stuff that I have never dreamed of. Did you know that some people somewhere (apparently in Bakersfield) like to buy cows lips. Seriously, in the meat department there were cow's lips, and a lot of them. I have to think it is not because they are old and not selling but because there is a demand of some sort for them. I could not stay near the meat department for very long. Some of the things that I saw turned my stomach. The produce section, on the other hand, was amazing. There were so many different types of fruits and vegetables. My mom, who lives in Michigan, was so excited about all the different types of peppers one could buy there! They had several different types of bananas. Forgive me if I have been missing something all of my life, but I never knew there was more than one type of banana. I guess I was wrong. They had these tiny little bananas that were probably no longer than three inches. It was a fun little shopping excursion, and my mom enjoyed it. Saturday we will take her up into the mountains to see the giant trees! Tomorrow will just be a quiet day, I think.
The kids are all doing well. Mom was able to attend James gymnastics practice tonight, and she was able to go to David's swimming lesson. Both are doing well in their activities. James moved quickly through Level 1, but Level 2 is definitely a challenge. He is great in the area of strength, but his flexibility is lacking. Most kids start when they are so young and flexible, and that is more of a challenge when you are older. He is giving it his all, though. I imagine David will move up to the next level in swimming after this term. He has improved greatly. He is all about the competition (and this is not competitive swimming), so when I told him there was a higher level class, but he had to follow all his teacher's instructions and learn to freestyle swim (only I had to describe that to him - he doesn't know that word), he went to his class that day and swam freestyle, taking breaths like he was supposed to. He wouldn't even try before the little pep talk. I just assumed he couldn't figure out how to do it. It seems he just didn't understand the reason for doing it!!! That's David!
Sarah got a new swim instructor, and she is having adjustment difficulties. She loved her previous teacher, a young college-aged guy named Tim. He was so good with her and she just laughed and smiled the whole lesson. Last week, she started working with Misty, and she cried the whole time. I watched, and Misty was very good with her, so I decided something must have happened that I just didn't see, like she swallowed a lot of water or something. So, we went back yesterday. She was excited and wanted to go. When we checked in at the desk, the gal said, she'll be with Misty, and Sarah immediately started crying. I really like Misty, but that just made me wonder. Sarah is not usually like that, so I watched real closely yesterday, and Misty was great with her - encouraged her, hugged her when she was too upset, etc. - but Sarah just cried. We will see how things go next week. It's a little strange, and Misty knows that she never cried with Tim. She mentioned it yesterday. I am hoping it will get better! She still swims and does what Misty asks, so I guess that is good! Jason's on a break from activities right at the moment, but can I brag on him a little? He has had such a hard time learning to read. It has been a struggle as long as he has been in school. So when school started this year, I got him into tutoring. God is so good, He provided someone in our launch team who is a fourth grade teacher and does tutoring for extra income. Jason has moved up a whole grade level in his reading abilities in only eight weeks. He actually goes and gets books out of the library and finishes reading them now, and he is so proud of himself. He is still not quite at grade level, so he continues in tutoring, but we are proud and excited for him!!!
Brent and I are just busy, busy, busy. As I have said so many times - there is just so much to get done and so little time, but we're moving along! We are excited for our upcoming preview service on December 2nd. That is the biggest deal with the church plant right now. I am trying to develop more and more relationships, and have gotten involved with a mom's group, which has been fun, and I have met some really neat people. My quick update is not so quick - I should be done, so I will be. Good night everyone!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

A New Book

Since I made it through that last book, Raising Kids for True Greatness, and really liked it, I decided I would try to continue reading something besides child abuse cases! I did not know what to read next, though, and had picked up a book that hasn't really captured me. Today Brent came from with a bunch of books that his Church Planting Coach, and more importantly friend, gave to him from a conference he attended. One of them is called God Never Wastes a Hurt by Jim Reeve. I liked the title, so I decided to start reading it. Then after I had thrown a really lousy dinner together, Brent told me to take the book and go to Starbucks for a while and have some time alone, which was incredibly nice because I was really tired of being a mom today.

I ran to Costco and got a few necessary groceries, then went to Starbucks for an orange frappucino (I hate coffee!!) and read the first chapter of the book. So far, it's really good! You can kind of gather from the title what the book is about, and I have certainly, like most of you, experienced a lot of pain in my life. I know that God uses those painful times, but it is always good to read about that and be encouraged. Several things stood out in the book tonight. First of all, Romans 8:37 says, "No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." the author pointed out the "more than conqueror" part. In Greek, these three word are one and the prefix for it is the word from which we get the word "hyper." He says that we are "hyper-conquerors." He said, "God does not declare His children to be victors on occasion or by the slimmest of margins, but rather champions who relentlessly defeat their opponents." That is encouraging to me. It may take a while, but with Christ I can conquer the painful times in my life.

He talks about our mountaintop experiences in our faith, which are so encouraging, but can almost become discouraging because of the long valleys between them. He said the key is not to forget what God said and did during the mountaintop experiences. Sometimes when we are stuck in the valley, those memories are so faint. While those experiences are amazing and wonderful, it is usually in the valleys that our faith grows and is strengthened. It is also important to remember that God is with us, protecting us during those valley times, even if it does not necessarily feel like it.

He also spent a lot of time talking about the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I had never thought about the fact that David says "Shadow of Death" instead of just "Death." He pointed out the difference and how crucial it is that the word shadow is there. Mr. Reeve said, "Shadows are typically bigger than the reality they represent." We need to remember that beyond the dark valley is light and during our valley look eagerly for the light ahead. Satan would like nothing better than to keep us in the dark! That is all easier said than done. I have had several times in my life when I knew there would be something on the other side. I remember one time, in particular, saying to Brent, "I can't wait until we can look back on today and know why God put us through this." I knew there was light ahead, but it still hurt and drug me down while I was in the midst of the struggle. But, those feeling of pain and anger and frustration and what made me choose to depend on God. If I could just, on my own, say this is no big deal because there is an end in sight, I don't know how much it would have done for my walk with the Lord. I hate those times, but they are times or great dependence on my Creator, which is awesome!

I think I am going to enjoy this book and am excited to keep reading it. It's cool how God cares about little things, even what books we are reading. He knows that I don't love to read. He knows that I want to read because it is good for me and teaches me a lot. He knew I was not really enjoying the book I had picked up. So he sent this book, via David, to Brent, had him sit it on the kitchen counter so that I would see it and pick it up. I know it's silly, but I think that is cool!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Update

I have so not felt like typing lately. I don't know why, but at the end of the day, I just want to veg and not use my brain. But, I have a lot to update. Soccer season came to an end. We are looking forward to NOT waking up at 6:45 on Saturday morning. It was a good season, and we enjoyed getting to meet lots of new people. Here are some pictures.



As you can see, David was not the best goalie!!! I don't think there was enough action, so he was creating his own by climbing on the outside of the goal. He loved to play the rest of the positions, though, anything that allowed him to chase and kick a ball. The third picture is of him and his new friend, Max, giving each other a high five when the other team scored for them!!! We are still working on the good sportsmanship aspect of playing ball. Earlier in the season, however, he did gather a group of about five kids from both teams and had everyone put their hands in the middle and yell teamwork while rasing their hands in the air. It's amazing what kids pick up because we never taught him those things.
After the games on Saturday, we had an end of the season party. It was a lot of fun. We went to a park with the church's ice cream truck and blew up the inflatable, had hotdogs and cupcakes and ice cream. It was fun for the kids and we were able to visit more with the parents. Here are some pictures from the party.




James did not play soccer - we don't know why because he kept asking after the season started, but he was a good sport most of the time and enjoyed cheering his brother's on and helping watch Sarah. David and two of the boys on his team had siblings on Jason's team, so they became good buddies. This is David sitting with Samuel and Christopher. Sarah had a chocolate cupcake at the party. It was a mess, but she is still adorable!!! The last picture is of Jason receiving his trophy from his amazing coaches, Dad and Eric. Brent enjoyed coaching Jason, and he and Eric made a good team. Eric knows soccer, and Brent knows kids. It worked quite well.
James is in gymnastics and is doing very well. He worked his way through Level One quickly. He says that Level 2 is much more difficult, but he is enjoying it, and it is very good for his strength! He is so strong.
Next I have a quick picture of David and Sarah dressed for Halloween. We went to a party this morning for a mom's group that I am trying to be more involved in so that I can meet people and so can the kids. We had a nice time.

One of the ladies in the group asked me if I would lead a Bible study for some of the women, so that starts in the morning here at our house. Please pray that I would communicate effectively and that relationships will grow. As far as I know, there are only three other ladies joining us in the morning, but I am excited and hopeful that it will grow to more!
We did a service project with our launch team and Life Journey Church on Sunday morning. It was exciting. We will send out an email with pictures and more information, but it was a great day! We cleared a very long alley that had been being used as a dump. There were city officials out to help us. They were so excited that there were churches that were willing to go into that part of town and make a difference. Some of the neighborhood people came out and helped. It was incredibly exciting!
I guess that is about it for now. God is faithful and though we are struggling at times because our launch team is not as big as we were hoping or because there is too much to do and not enough time or any number of other things, He is wonderful to encourage us exactly when we most need it!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Fun Prizes and Something to Consider

So, earlier in the week, a friend of mine (and fellow church planter wife), Jan, called and asked me if I wanted to go with her to sit in the audience of Deal or No Deal in LA. Nothing was certain, but she had a friend who had a friend who worked on the set, and they were taping their Christmas show and were giving great prizes to all of the audience members. I checked with Brent, then said yes. As of 6:30 on Friday morning, the morning of the taping, we still were not sure that we had tickets, but decided to go ahead and drive down there. We could enjoy a fun day of talking and going to IKEA without children if we didn't get on. Either way, it would be a lot of fun! So we went down early yesterday morning, and we were able to get in!! We got all sorts of great stuff: A Roomba, a Nintendo DS and a couple games, a digital photo frame that plays MP3s, red carpet tickets to a premiere showing of a movie, $200.00 and a Howie Mandel bobble head!!! It was so cool!!! The show itself was interesting. I have never watched it all the way through, and I don't know what I thought of it. It is certainly just about gambling. I think I like it better when people win money for answering trivia questions - at least it takes some effort to win. I have seen one other taping in my life. I sat in the audience of a taping to Candid Camera just after I finished high school. It is amazing how many people they have to help them make the whole thing happen. I was telling Jan as we drove home that it would be so much easier to have Sunday morning services if we had all those people to make it happen!! The money that goes into the production of a show is incredible - it's kind of heartbreaking! There is so much money put into that when there is so little put into reaching people for Jesus, or feeding the hungry, or housing the homeless, or any other things like that. It makes a person stop and think about the importance we place on entertainment - kind of sad. There were so many other observations I made while there. I also felt so old. Those production assistants and camera men looked like they were no more than 20 years old. I'm sure they were older than that, but they were still so young! The entertainment industry is a crazy place - a completely different world than I live in. It was a fun day! I love Jan and so enjoy the time I spend with her. We were able to talk lots to and from LA, and it is so great to have someone who has been where I am and who can give advice and listen.

Since we arrived here, I have been contemplating getting a job. I continue to do some work for the Adoption Unit in Oklahoma, but I wondered if a job here would help me to meet more people. But, I have never done anything about it. I made a couple contacts through the social service department and completed my resume to turn in for teaching foster parents, but I have never done anything with that completed resume. I feel so busy already - helping Brent with church planting stuff, volunteering at school and through the family to family mentoring program, plus (and most importantly) being a mom. Whenever I have thought that I was going to take care of that resume, things have come up and I haven't gotten it done. I have kind of just felt like that was God holding me back, and probably it is. But tonight, on a whim, my neighbor placed a job offer before me. I don't know how totally serious he was, but he seemed pretty serious. He is a doctor, and they need a part time office manager. He said he thought I would be able to do a good job. I only talked to him briefly, but I told him I would only be interested in discussing it further if it was very part time and that I would have to talk to Brent about it. I mentioned it to Brent, and we are just going to pray about it. He said he would not be ready to hire for a month or so, so I have some time. If you think about it, pray for our decision. It would really have to be very flexible, and we did not talk about that a lot, so it may not work out, but it may be a great opportunity for me also. I really like these neighbors very much, and they are not Christians and we have prayed for opportunities to build relationships with unbelievers around us. This could be a perfect opportunity.

Tomorrow we have a practice service at church. It will be very, very small, but a friend of Eric's came into town tonight and will be leading worship. They drove up from LA. We enjoyed having them over for dinner this evening. Dave and Michelle are a part of Mosaic Church down in LA. I spent a lot of time visiting with Michelle tonight, and really enjoyed her. We are going to do our service and then walk through and talk about the things we need to order before our December 2nd preview service. Hopefully it will be fun and productive and also provide us with a great opportunity to do praise and worship for the first time with our Launch team. I am excited!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Thank God for Spilled Coke

I'm not even 100% sure I should type this and admit it to the whole world (okay, so it is actually just a couple close friends, but potentially anyone could read this), but I feel compelled because it just shows how great our God is.

It was an absolutely crazy week last week. We were preparing for our first Kaleo event, a carnival at American Kids, which is where our church will meet. Neither Brent nor I are great party planners. We really need someone to help with all the details. We are thankful to have Eric, but I don't think he is super detail oriented either. So, here you have three not so organized people trying to pull off an event that needed to be organized, knowing very few people in this city to call on for help. So, Monday night I lost my cell phone. I have yet to find it and have just about determined that I must have thrown it away with the Sonic trash when we finally got home Monday evening after driving around and hanging flyers. A few days later, I lost my purse. It has been recovered. It was actually in my room under pillows. I hadn't made my bed! But the worst thing is what happened on Saturday.

We took the boys to their soccer games; then came home to finish stuff up before heading to set up for the party. Brent and Eric left with the boys. Sarah was down for a short nap, and there was still some things that needed to be printed, so I began printing while letting Sarah rest. In the meantime, I received a phone call and talked for a few minutes while stuff finished printing. When I was done printing, I gathered everything, the papers, Sarah's diaper bag, jackets because it was overcast and may have gotten cold, and a Diet Coke. I locked up the house, closed the garage door and went to the van. I loaded everything up, and when I put my coke in the holder, I somehow set it down funny, and it splashed all over the radio and console area. I was irritated, but I grabbed the diaper bag, grabbed the wipies, and cleaned up the mess. I used the only two wipies that were in the diaper bag, so I decided I should run in and get some more.

So, I went inside to the kids bathroom where I keep the wipies. They weren't there, so I decided they must have been in Sarah's room. I flung the door open to look for them, and there, lying in her bed sound asleep, was my daughter. I had completely forgotten that she was at home. I almost drove off and left her. It was so far from my mind that she was at home, that I am just about sure I would have driven all the way to my destination before I realized she was not with Brent. I knew she was home, but my mind failed me. American Kids is a good 20 minute drive from our house, and I don't know any phone numbers for my neighbors, so she would have been home for 40 minutes by herself, or I would have had to call the police. It was a terrible, terrible feeling. I have never done anything like that. Stress is a terrible thing.

But God is so good and so caring. I can just picture his hand tipping that drink so that the series of events that followed would take place. I am so thankful that I have a God who loves me and who watches out for me and for my children (even in my moments of weakness). Almost forgetting my child makes the loss of my cell phone seem so completely insignificant, although it is still frustrating. I have got to learn to slow down and relax, even when things are crazy and there are deadlines and I am having to work outside of my strengths, but it is so hard. When I was at Pine Cove this summer, Sarah was sick, so she could not go to child care most of the week, so she sat in sessions with us. While she was pretty good, I was distracted and missed a lot of what the speaker said, but behind him, on the wall, was a large canvas, with the verse, "Be still and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10. All week I thought about that and about how hard it is for me to be still. I am terrible at it. On the last day of camp, I talked about how much I needed to work on that. When we got back, initially, I did a little better, but as things have come up and there are deadlines, it has been hard to stop and be still.

Caroline Casselberry bought me a sign that has that verse on it, and I wake up to see it every morning, and yet it is still so hard. I need to figure out how to slow down and let God do His thing, even in times of deadlines! If not, I might miss amazing opportunities or do things that could potentially cause harm to someone (such as leaving a 2 year old home alone). The other thing is that I hate stress, and God would like to take that stress from me, if I would just stop long enough to give it to Him. He would also probably like for me stop and refocus without having to make a mess!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Busy, Busy, Busy

I just feel so tired and busy right now. I had a nice couple of days at a Church Planter's Wives retreat in Texas. It was nice to meet so many people who have been where we are right now and to hear their stories. I also got to spend quality time with the wife of another planter here in Bakersfield. They planted four years ago and have a neat story and are reaching amazing people from very difficult backgrounds. I just had fun hanging out with her and getting to know her better.

I finished reading Raising Kids for True Greatness, and I still think it was a great read. It was not difficult to get through and was scripturally sound. I have recommended it to several people who I think could be encouraged or challenged by it. I have a strong desire to forget about success with my kids and just strive for True Greatness. We really do get focused on the wrong things at times. I want my kids to be the best they can be, but if that does not include loving God and loving others, it just does not matter, so I pray they will have a strong sense of that love and a desire to be a true servant for Christ. I pray that I can model that, particularly during such a stressful time in our lives, and I know I did not demonstrate it tonight. Even as we sat and did our prayer time together, I had to apologize for being so cranky, even though I was still feeling cranky inside. (I can't even identify why I feel so crabby today, which is frustrating for me. I even went to bed about 2 1/2 hours earlier than usual last night, so I can't blame lack of sleep.)

We have a crazy week in front of us, actually just a crazy rest of the month. We have a lot going on with the church plant, including a party this weekend, a rehearsal service the next weekend, and a serving event the last weekend. I am really looking forward to the serving event. We are going to go to an area of town that the city is trying to clean up because homes are not up to code and try to help with some houses. We are hoping that with this event we will actually be able to talk to the people and encourage them. It should be really great! We are working with another church, the one I mentioned above, on a Sunday morning for our "Inside Out" service. (We think that is what we will call them. Any thoughts?) We will be having these once a month, even after we have launched. We will gather on the fourth Sunday morning of each month and head out into the community to do good. We are trying to get it started before we even begin meeting regularly. I am excited for this opportunity because we were trying to find ways that we could serve people in practical ways while still being able to talk to them and hopefully make a spiritual impact. I think we will be able to do it through this project. We are definitely in need of prayers for our time management. There is too much to get done in too little time. I don't like being so busy and need to keep balance, so that is another prayer. We don't want to be so busy that we miss important things that are right in front of our faces, but there is so much to get done. I'm sure many of you can relate.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pictures




So Rick and Kylee have been requesting pictures. Unfortunately, I have had the hardest time finding good pics of everyone right now. I have a million adorable pictures of Sarah and some of David, but I am lacking on the older boys. I am going to post a couple - one of the family with our surf board - yes we did try to use it. I am told it was a terrible beach for surfing because of the way the shoreline was - I don't understand what that means. I think it was just our friend, Joel, trying to help us feel better because we were terrible!!! I wiped out so badly (and so quickly, I might add) that I had sand in my nasal passage. I think I just scooted across the bottom of the ocean on my nose. It was fun, but when we try again, we will go to a different beach. (Then we will know if Joel was just being nice or not). On another note, that day we must have seen 20 dolphins (or several of the same ones many times) and two seals, swimming just of the shoreline. It was incredible. They were near enough that Joel tried to swim out to them and other people down the way were out as far as they were.

The next picture is of David playing soccer - he loves it and is such a little athlete! We enjoy watching him play. The last is just a picture of Sarah and I that Brent took this morning. Sarah's hair is in a ponytail, so she looks a little different. I must tell you that Brent put the ponytail in her hair. I was impressed!!!

I will try to get more pictures posted, but I am not great at doing that. Basically, I am not great at taking pictures anymore. I just get busy.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Raising Kids . . .

For True Greatness - I am not good at reading books - terrible, in fact. I loved to read when I was a kid, but I have such a hard time staying focused with all the different things going on in life now. But, we were given a book by Dr. Tim Kimmel last year and I have been determined to read it and have started it several times. It was given to everyone who attends Pine Cove, at least I think so, because his introduction talks about the truly great kids who work there. I kept starting it and was so interested, but then I would not take time to read and would end up starting over because I had forgotten. Well, I picked it up Thursday, determined to finish it by the end of next week, and I have completed more than half of it in two days. I love it, and I think every parent needs to read it, especially in this day and age. (I don't push parenting books, either. I think that can become so controversial and divisive, but this book is different.) I wish I read it even before I had kids, for those of you who are just starting out or haven't even started. I even think it would be beneficial for people who do not have kids because there are so many lessons in it for me as a Believer, not just as a parent.

The main thrust of the book is that we should be raising our kids to be truly great, not just successful, but most of us are raising them to be successful, not necessarily truly great. Obviously, we don't think that consciously, but it is what we do. He raises the question, "Success is important in our society, but was it important to Jesus?" That is what the book is all about. I love how Dr. Kimmel defines true greatness. He says, "True greatness is a passionate love for God that demonstrates itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others." I love that definition! In chapter 2, he explains the difference between success and true greatness. One thing he said is, "The successful come, achieve, and then leave. The truly great touch people's lives in such a way that their impact lasts forever." I could quote Dr. Kimmel all day, but I won't. I just want to highly recommend his book and then quote him occasionally. He does a great job of backing up his points with scripture, and I really appreciated one chapter that focused on the beattitudes.

Okay, enough of my book review. We are doing well - busy as usual. We are into soccer season and have met some nice families. Brent and Eric are coaching Jason's team together. David and Jason have both played very well and are enjoying the activity. Brent's parents were here as I mentioned in the blog about the trees. They were hugely helpful and it was such a blessing to have them here. I am thankful that I have in-laws that I enjoy! We spent two days with them in LA after they returned from visiting Rick and Kylee in Hawaii. There is this restaurant in LA called Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles that we have wanted to eat at so we went there. It is a popular place. The waffles were the most delicious waffles I have ever tasted, and the chicken was tasty also. We ran around and had fun showing Brent's parents some of LA. The boys enjoyed two days out of school. It was a nice, much needed break!

We have so much to do on the church side of stuff, so you can pray for that. Our boundaries had become terrible (working constantly), so we are trying to take weekends off as much as we can. It was a nice day today with soccer and then just being at home. You can see Brent's blog for all the upcoming church events. Thanks for your prayers. I'm going to try to read another chapter in the book before bed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GIANT Trees!

Brent's parents are here! It is so fun to have them. They have been such a huge help! Brent's dad has worked hard on our ice cream truck. He has also dealt with stuff that we just haven't had time to get done. The kids are enjoying their grandparents who they miss so much! It's just been wonderful! On Saturday we took them up to Sequoia National Forest to see the giant Sequoia trees. I am posting some pictures of our day. The trees are amazing. Hopefully, you will all want to come and see us so we can take you to see them also!

Here we are standing on a tree trunk that has fallen over and broken.

This is another tree that fell over - you can see the root system.





James is crawling out from inside of the tree trunk.




Thursday, September 13, 2007

Yay for Best Buy and Canon!!

Real quickly I need to share this fabulous thing that happened today. Then I have to clean for a couple more hours before going to bed. Brent's parents will be here tomorrow, and I still have a lot to do to get ready! But . . . I am so excited about this. Monday I took David and Sarah to this farm that is in town to see and pet the animals with some other stay at home moms. When we got home, I dropped our digital camera on the kitchen floor, and it broke. We bought it two years ago at Best Buy for somewhere around $500.00. We had saved Birthday and Christmas money in order to buy it. Brent's pretty particular about stuff, and we shopped and read all sorts of reviews before buying it and spent extra money to get the exact one that we wanted. I knew we bought the extended warranty, but I was not 100% sure it worked if you dropped the camera, so I was nervous because we do not have the money to replace a camera right now, especially not for the exact one Brent wanted. So, today I took the camera to Best Buy. Now, on the drive to the store, the sinful, fallen part of me was trying to figure out how I could tell Best Buy about dropping it without ever really admitting to dropping it, if you know what I mean. How could I make that warranty apply if there was a clause against dropping it. But, I am an honest person and felt very convicted that it would be wrong to do anything but simply fess up, so when I got to the Geek Squad at Best Buy, I told the guy that I dropped it and asked if he would check to see if the warranty covered accidents. He looked up my account and made a phone call and asked a couple questions. When he got off the phone, he said that Canon products are covered with an exchange program. I could go find a camera that cost the same amount (or about the same amount) as the Camera I was returning (when I bought the camera new). He then told me it was $475.00 and that the updated version of my camera was about that price, but with 8 megapixels instead of 5. So, tonight I have a brand new camera that is better than the one I already had. I took it to the kids' first soccer practices and enjoyed it very much! I want to kick myself for those thoughts of dishonesty coming into my head. I have a great example to use with my kids also. They always need to hear how honesty pays off. This world too often makes it seem that dishonesty is better.

I can't say enough good about Best Buy or Canon! Well, I off to continue the cleaning process.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Good News!

Praise the Lord, the pediatric ENT said that Sarah is just fine. She said she was healing well and the stitches looked good and well-placed. She said we could return in 6 months for a follow up appointment but only if we felt it was really necessary. She expects we will have no complications. We were so thankful! Thanks for all of your prayers. For those of you who have not experienced major injuries to your children, especially blood related ones when you cannot identify the severity, I do not think it is possibly to describe the fear. Throughout everything with Sarah and with Jason years ago, I just prayed for them and prayed that whatever the outcome, I would glorify God because in my fear, I become afraid that I might not be able to glorify Him. I am so awed by watching the faith of people who go through the loss of a loved one, and especially a child. It is such a testimony to me.

I am also struck by the reality that I have very little control over my children. I can watch like a hawk, but things still happen, and I have to trust God with them completely. While there is fear in that, there is also freedom. I have three incidents in my life that I can think of right now that really speak to that. The first was when Jason cut his wrist and the ER doctor said that if the cut had been on more millimeter, it would have cut his main artery, and the chances of saving him would have been slim. The second was when the doctor was working on Sarah's mouth and said that he was just so glad she had not hit her parotid artery which was close to the injury. The third is a story involving James and a snake. He was at a friend's house and later told me that they were throwing rocks at snakes to kill them. Of course, as a mother, I told him he needed to stop doing that because it was dangerous. Later when I was expressing my fear to Brent, he said, "If God wants him to die by snake bite, there is very little you can do about it." While that is true, Brent was being silly and serious at the same time. He just wanted me to keep perspective. With four kids (or even just one), I could worry all of the time and be useless for God. Basically, our kids are in His hands. I am thankful for that because I can rest in the fact that He is in control. He kept Jason's artery from being cut (1 mm - I could never have controlled a millimeter). He kept Sarah's parotid artery from damage, and even protected that parietal gland that the ER doctor was concerned about. And thus far, He has also protected James from snakes or anything else that he might have gotten into without my knowledge. And He has protected David from who knows what, which could be a full-time job for any human! It is hard to let go of control, but sometimes it's not a matter of letting go, just a realization that I never had the control in the first place!

I try to think of how a person who does not know Jesus deals with this, and I just can't even imagine. I know if I have to lose a child, it will be incredibly difficult - I have no idea how I would handle it, but I would have the advantage of being able to remember the God who I serve is ready for the child to return home. James used to tell us that he was not going to live to be ten. It was never a fearful thing. In fact, he never even really told us outright, just made comments like, "If I am ever ten . . . " instead of "When I am ten . . . " When I asked him about it, he just always said, "I would really like to return to Jesus before then. I want to be with Jesus." It was such a sweet, innocent love of the Lord. I was always in awe because I was terrified of dying when I was his age. It's still not at the top of my list, and yet for him, it was a way to get to Jesus. It was really cool! Of course, we were also relieved when we had his 10th birthday and he was still with us!!! You begin to wonder after a while. I pray for a faith like that for myself and for that strong of a desire to be with Jesus.

I don't mean to talk about dying and pain so much, but it has been on my mind. I want to be able to let go of my children when God asks (realizing that they are going home to their Heavenly Father), and I will tell you that when the alarm went off when Sarah was receiving her stitches, I did not feel ready - I don't suppose a parent ever does. I don't know what happened exactly, but she needed oxygen, and she needed it fast. All I knew was that beeping like that in a hospital was not a good thing, and I was scared, as any parent would be. But once again, he protected her, and here we are a week later and she is in the other room trying to manipulate her father and being a sweet (and picky) as can be with two cheeks on her face that are the same size!!! Again, thanks for all of your prayers!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sarah



This is a picture of Sarah's swollen cheek. It's really not as bad as we thought it might be. The doctor's said it would turn black and blue, and it is a little pink on the side, but that all at this point.



This is just a fun picture taken tonight. She is wearing a dress that my mother made for me when I was her age. No, I don't think it was for a costume! It makes me feel a little old to think that I wore that. Of course, my mom always loved Little House On the Prairie and I think she may have been going for that look! I think Pine Cove should have a pioneer day next year because we would be all set for Sarah! She continues to do well tonight and is off to bed lying down (she had to sit up last night) in her own bed (she was with us last night)!!!!

Trauma

For those of you who have not yet heard, yesterday Sarah hurt herself really badly. She fell while she had her toothbrush in her mouth. It is one of those things that you hear about happening but don't think it ever will. She was just standing there brushing her teeth, when David bumped into her and knocked her over. It punctured the inside of her cheek, and we spent 6 1/2 hours in the emergency room. She is doing okay right now. If you don't like gorey details, skip down to the next paragraph. Basically when she punctured her cheek, the fatty tissue from inside came out. It looked horrible. The ER doctor had to push it all back in there and stitch her up.

Our praise, the doctor and nurse were wonderful! I have said this before (and also in regards to Sarah - how did our sweet little girl, who is very calm end up with more medical problem?) but we so appreciated all of our friends in the medical profession in Bartlesville. We always knew people we could trust to call with problems. But so far, we have had good medical care here also, and I am thankful. The doctor who worked on Sarah last night has six children of his own, so he understood things from a parent's perspective, and we really enjoyed our nurse, who also has three or four children. She took great care of us and of Sarah!

The prayer request - The doctor is concerned about Sarah having punctured her parietal gland (a salivary glad) and thinks it could cause potential problems in the future. He recommended we take her to a pediatric ENT. There is not one in Bakersfield, but there is an excellent (or so we have heard) children's hospital North of Fresno, so he referred us there. He said that if the parietal gland is damaged, her saliva might fill up the tissue inside her cheek or cause infection or something. He thought she would need surgery. But in the process, we spoke to our friend and an ENT doctor in Bartlesville, Chuck Holland, who said he would not do surgery. He said that the chances of her damaging it are so slim, and the surgery is traumatic and that the worse case scenario of not correcting it is not as traumatic as the surgery. He said he would just leave it and keep an eye on it. So we have received two opposite recommendations. One from a friend who we trust but who has not seen Sarah and one from a doctor who is NOT a specialist in the field and who we do not really know (but who we did have a good feeling about) but who has actually seen Sarah. I think, for my piece of mind, we are going to go ahead and take her for a consultation at that hospital with the pediatric ENT to get another opinion. If it differs from Chuck, we will have a new request, but I am hoping that after we tell him what Chuck said, he will agree! I just know that as a mom, if I do not follow what the ER doctor says and something happens to my daughter, I will always question myself, and we do need to have her in for follow up anyway, so we might as well follow up with the specialist.

In the meantime, she had a tough night, though not as bad as we thought it might have been. She woke up this morning in pain, but we gave her some Tylenol with Codeine. We thought it would knock her out, but it didn't. She has been playing and acting pretty normal this morning. Her cheek is swollen, but not black and blue like they thought it would be - I guess that could still come. She wanted to brush her teeth this morning! I was afraid we would never get a toothbrush back in her mouth. And she can still suck her thumb! While I was planning and easier way to break the habit, I thought that this might do it, but obviously it is going to be a lot harder than I thought. She has eaten lot of yogurt and pudding!!!

Thanks so much for your prayers. We are so grateful for our new support system here! The Limiero's totally took care of our kids, and I knew I did not need to worry about them. Eric was here at our house prepared to take care of the kids, and I didn't even know it. Our friends, the Morrisons, who we were so looking forward to having dinner with, brought that dinner to our home at 8:45. Their daughter, Holly, brought Sarah a doll and a picture. When Sarah woke up this morning, she immediately asked for her doll from Holly, then named the doll Holly. Thanks so much!!! We are also so grateful for cheap or free long distance now, too. We were able to get people praying right away and have many conversations with our family and close friends from Bartlesville. Thanks so much!

Monday, September 3, 2007

If life serves you lemons . . .

For whatever reason, today, I have just felt unhappy. God brought something to my mind, and it has just been eating at me ecer since. Obviously it is something He is trying to use in my life to teach me lessons, but today I am just not enjoying it. And it frustrates me when things like that come up on otherwise nice days. I got to sleep in a little this morning. (Sleeping in, however, has taken on a whole new meaning since I became a parent!!!) The day was pretty laid back. I just cleaned the house a bit, went to get some groceries and have now been preparing to have some friends over for dinner. But in the course of all of this, some baggage came up and I find myself again trying to deal with it - AGAIN!! It is the again part that bothers me.

The saying, "If life serves you lemons, make lemonade" came to mind! Today I don't like that saying. I was trying to think of all the many reasons why I don't like it, and I think the main thing that came to me is that that saying indicates that it is all in my control. I should be able to turn the things that can cause bitterness into something sweet. Well, I can't always do that. I can put those things at the back of my mind and pretend they do not exist, but I cannot make them sweet. And the things I put out of my mind come to surface again in the oddest of times, and I can feel the bitterness and sourness churning in my stomach and worse yet, in my heart. But I do serve a God who make the bitter and sour become sweet! He wants me to give all of those things over to Him and allow him to use them in my life, but I have to be willing to submit to Him. That means I have to trust that He is controlling my current circumstances and my past circumstances, and while I can do that in my head, it is so much harder to transfer to my heart and to really live in a way that shows I am trusting Him.

The other thing about baggage and the feelings I have is the issue of forgiveness. I know that I have to forgive and I usually want to forgive. God has this amazing ability to forgive AND forget! I do not. I can certainly forgive, but I am not able, outside of a miracle, to forget. In a lot of ways I don't want to forget everything because those memories and circumstances are what God has used to make me who I am today, but I wish the remembering didn't also come with the obvious need to forgive again (if that makes any sense at all). I wish I could remember without feeling hurt or angry. I have come to realize that forgiveness is often an ongoing process. It is not always a once and forever thing. When we are hurt or angered (which I think is usually caused by the hurt), those feelings and memories come back to us and we have to do it again. In some ways, that is how God has to handle me all the time. Only, unfortunately, it is not a memory for Him; it is something I actually do, but he sent His Son for me so that all my sins would be forgiven! My prayer today is that I would remember what He does for me daily and be able to also do that for others. And that I would give to God the things that cause pain in my life, so that He can use them for good! He wants to do that for me and for everyone else, which is so refreshing.

On the flip side, I think sometimes God continues to bring things to the surface in our lives because He wants something very specific done. Maybe I am not responding the way He wants. If you think about it, pray that I would hear Him and know what to do, if anything, outside of my own life.

I think I would like to change the saying to, "If life serves you lemons, give them to God so He can make lemonade - the sweetest lemonade you have ever tasted!"

Friday, August 31, 2007

New friends . . .

When I arrived in Bakersfield, I was introduced to a website called meetup.com. It is a place that you can go and join different groups. I joined a group of stay at home moms just shortly after we arrived. The idea is that periodically the women will get together. Tonight, after three months, I finally attended a meetup. It is a little strange going to a restaurant to meet a bunch of women you have never even laid eyes on. In my case, I was a little lucky in that I had met one of the women at a scrapbooking party several weeks ago when she invited me to her home after seeing that I enjoy scrapbooking, so I was not all alone. She offered to pick me up, so we could go to the event together. Neither of us knew anyone and we barely knew each other, but we found the other ladies, and seven of us (complete strangers) enjoyed dinner together. It was so much fun getting to know other moms! I am so glad that I decided to go, and I am so thankful for Trina calling to take me with her. I doubt she will read this, but if so, Thanks Trina!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Balance! and Loneliness?

I was just thinking this morning about how good God is in the way he provides for us. Specifically, I have been thankful for my husband and the perfect match he is for me! It's kind of silly because nothing in particular happened, but James asked me a question yesterday, and I heard myself saying, "You need to talk with your dad about this because he will be able to help you more than me." The question? More or less it was this, "We are studying evolution and watched a film about it and about how there are good mutations which caused evolution, but I don't believe in evolution, so when the question was asked on my worksheet, 'Are there good mutations?' I answered, 'No.' When my teacher gives it back and marks it wrong, I want to ask him to change my grade because answering yes would have been against my religion." Well, I kind of giggled, but I knew where he was coming from. On top of the fact that he just does not agree with evolution at all (and has strong convictions like his mother), when I was home schooling last year, we did a whole section of science from this book about creation versus evolution. At the time I could not remember this next thing that I am going to write, so I will have to tell James tonight, but it said that MOST mutations are bad, such as birth defects, and most of the time they are medically corrected. Basically statistics show that good mutations are so unlikely that evolution is not possible but not that there are NO good mutations. (I know there are two types of evolution, and it was talking like from one species to another, not within the species). I really need to ask Caroline Casselberry to send me the book we used so he can review it. Anyway, I am such a black and white person, and so is James, and I agree with James that his teacher should not ask questions that are so controversial with a right or wrong answer. James should have the freedom to express what he thinks, but I did not think his response to the teacher would go over well. However, I had no idea how to help him. So, I told Brent and had James talk to Brent, who just so quickly came up with a perfect answer for him, which would allow James to answer correctly without compromising his convictions. I am not on top of things enough to figure that out. What if I did not have Brent? In this case, James would have argued his point unintelligibly and probably would have gotten on his teacher's bad side.

This is only one little stupid example, but things like this happen all the time, and I rarely express my thankfulness to God for providing me with someone who complements me. I am so black and white. Things are right or wrong. There is very little gray in my world. Brent, on the other hand, is so full of grace and love and sees all the gray that is out there, and helps me, when I let him, learn to extend more grace and love to others. I don't tell him enough how thankful I am for him, either - so if you read this, Brent (and I haven't already told you), thanks, and I love you!

On the flip side, I can also help Brent to see things from my perspective, which sometimes is necessary. Sometimes a foot has to be put down and sin needs to be called what it is. There is this amazing balance that God provides to each of us through the other. Unfortunately, we don't always see the blessing in that because it can also be amazingly frustrating to be so different. My prayer in my marriage right now is that I will clearly see and appreciate Brent's perspective and hear him when he tries to share what he thinks with me and that it would be the same the other way around!

I was having coffee (okay a orange cream frappacino that has no coffee flavor in it) this morning with my friend, Amberly, who I have grown to love and appreciate so much since we moved here. We had a great conversation about how we are each doing. In the course of that conversation, she asked how I was doing with loneliness. It kind of caught me off guard and in a good way. One thing I can say about being here is that I don't feel lonely. Yes, I miss my friends and family in Bartlesville and long to be with them. I would like to just call each of you and be able to schedule lunch, but it is not possible, and that bums me out sometimes. But I do not feel lonely here, and what a blessing that is!!! We have been so warmly welcomed, and I have quickly formed friendships that I feel will last a lifetime, and I am so thankful for how God has provided these relationships. Thanks, Amberly, for asking because I don't think I have stopped to appreciate that blessing that God has bestowed on me!

So today I just appreciate God, My Provider, because He has provided so much for me - more than I could begin to list.

Monday, August 27, 2007

One week of school down!

I am excited to report that the boys did pretty well all week. James did great! Although, he is on a new level of having to stay organized, and it may kill me!!! One of my friends said that they think junior high is all about learning to organize and keep things in order, and I think it may be true, but he will make it. He made a couple of friends and told me last night that one of them is a Christian. He asked some sweet questions last week. One thing he asked was at what point do I tell other kids that I'm a Christian. He said that he wanted his friends to know but did not want to scare them off, so we had a good conversation about that. He also asked how he prevents bad language from becoming a part of his vocabulary when he hears it all the time now. Apparently, he is a little concerned he will start cussing because it is so common around school. There is also one boy who was around at lunch, at least one day, who was talking about terrorism and being inappropriate (joking about it, which is absolutely not okay in our house), and he wanted to know how to handle that. I am just excited that he is talking to us about it. Pray that we will have wisdom on how to answer the questions. Really, I just want him to stay completely away from that one child, but at the same time, he could be a great witness. He did tell me that he told the kid that he was being completely inappropriate, so I am excited about his courage!

Jason did great on Wednesday and went happily Thursday morning. Then during the day on Thursday, he had some academic struggles and came home very discouraged, but Friday he did very well on his test, and I had a pretty good talk with his teacher this morning. I know it will take his teacher a little bit of time to figure everything out, but he seemed to think Jason was doing okay. The class sizes are pretty big. The kids get prizes for good behavior, and poor Jason told me last week that his teacher would never know he was being good because it is impossible to tell who is being good when you have to watch 30 kids. Jason has a very sweet boy in his class, whose mother I met and is also very nice. He was just so kind to Jason all week, and that was very helpful. The boys are adjusting well, and I am so thankful that God has provided in so many ways.

David and Sarah did okay with their brothers gone last week. I started doing a little bit of schoolwork with David since I did not get him into preschool. He really enjoys it and has learned three letter sounds. It just gives us a little something productive to do during the day.

I spent a long weekend with my grandmother, aunt and cousins in Palm Springs. We had a nice time. I have never been close enough to do anything like that, and I really enjoyed the time with them. It was nice to have a little break from the kids, but I did miss them. I got home last night in time for dinner with some new friends. We had a great time and laughed a lot while the kids swam in their pool.

I am studying Leviticus right now in my Bible study. I always have such a hard time making it through Leviticus and Numbers and decided I needed to get a study guide to help me understand all of it. It is still so hard to really grasp, but it makes me appreciate so much what Jesus did for me and all the freedom I have because of Him! I am also reading a book called Raising Kids for True Greatness. For those of you who don't know me as well, I am not a big reader, and I really don't read many parenting books, but this was sent to me and I liked the title. So far, it is an excellent book and I would highly recommend it (though I have not come near finishing it). It talks about the difference between true greatness and success and has really challenged my thinking about what is really important in raising my kids.

It's been a week or more since my last post, and this pretty much updates my life. We are just busy! Brent and I sat down and made a list this morning of things that need to get done. It's no where near finished, and I am already scared of it, but God is good and will help us accomplish it. Have a great day everyone!

Monday, August 20, 2007

We made it through the day . . .

It did not start out so well, but God is good! James woke up in a great mood and had a great attitude. Brent took him and he went off like it was just another day! I guess he got over his anxiety yesterday. Jason, on the other hand, was a mess. We left for our walk to school, and he was great - happy all the way, but when we arrived, his face just showed all his anxiety. Then we had to wait for his teacher because he had before school duty. He did not arrive until the bell rang. In the meantime, a very sweet mother walked up to me and introduced herself and told me her son's name. He and Jason ended up sitting together, but when I left, Jason was crying. I spent the day praying for both of them while I went about my other tasks. Brent and I both discussed that it would be nice if the first day of school was only a half day so we did not have to wait so long to check on the kids. I walked back to pick Jason up and he came out and snuck up behind me. He was all smiles. He hung out with that sweet boy for the most part and made one or two other acquaintances. He loved his teacher, but through the night, he was teary again several times and said he did not want to go back tomorrow. I guess that at one recess, he could not find anyone he knew and that bothered him a lot, but otherwise, he had a good day. Tomorrow should be better as he gets to know more kids. I don't think I have realized how insecure he is. I know that he is much more attached to us than James, but some of that is age, but I think he is kind of afraid of making new friends. When he was little, he made friends with anyone. That seems to have changed, but I am just now realizing that.

James made two friends. He made it to all of his classes on time, and overall had a good day! I was so proud of him. I asked him this evening when we ran to the store together if he was scared this morning. He said he just kept praying, and he felt fine. Then he said throughout the day, he kept seeing all the things God provided for him and stopped and said thank you. He is such a great kid!!!! I need to remember these things when his preteen behaviors are driving me NUTS!!!!

Thank you for your prayers! I will definitely still appreciate them as they continue to adjust, but I think it is all going to be fine. I still have some concerns about Jason's academic abilities, but we will see as we go along. He will be assessed this week in all areas, I think. So, I should know something soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

School starts tomorrow!

The boys start school tomorrow. It's been a stressful day as a result. James got up early this morning and attended the junior high group at one of the churches here. I encouraged it because I was hoping for one more chance for him to connect with some kids who might attend his school. It did not turn out so well. James came out of class upset. He said that the kids made fun of him for answering questions. He said that when they asked questions, he would wait to see if anyone else answered, but after some silence, he answered. He said each time the kids laughed at him. He said, "If kids think I am a geek at church, they are really going to think I am a geek at school." Now, as an irrational mother, I was just heart broken and wanted to go shake some kids, but as a rational mother, I thought that he may have misinterpreted something innocent. Unfortunately, the youth pastor was not there today, and I did not know who taught, so I couldn't go and ask about the situation. It just got James down. It was a bummer! We spent some time tonight praying and reminding him that God is in control and cares about his relationships and will provide and will also teach him during this time. I know he understands that in his head, but it's always hard to transfer to the heart. It was a good conversation, but it is so hard for me. I want to take him to school tomorrow and personally find him a friend, but obviously that would not work! So, if you read this, say some prayers for James tomorrow. Jason was doing pretty well at bedtime, so I think he will be okay, but he could use some prayers also. We all could! It may be a tough morning. I am going to walk Jason to school with his friends, Anthony and Carissa, and their mother. Brent is going to take James to school. I will let you know how their days go. Thanks for your prayers!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Volunteering

So, Brent told me tonight, that blogs are supposed to be short! Remember, I said this was all new to me. I did not know that rule! I will try to do better this time. It has been a busy week, but a good week.

I have had an amazing opportunity to volunteer at a youth workshop for teens who are in foster care or in difficult living situations. There are nine amazing kids in the group who have been so brave and vulnerable to share their lives with strangers. I have truly enjoyed every minute of it and will be sad when it ends tomorrow. I am hoping that I will be able to continue to have a relationship with one of the girls by mentoring her. What is really incredible is that this workshop is conducted by a social service agency that was actually started by a church! The church was doing so many incredible things in the community that they decided to start a separate agency, but it is in the same building as the church and everything. While we have no goals of starting a social service agency, we sure hope that we can make a significant impact on the community and can learn a lot from this church. I have enjoyed being able to utilize my social work skills. I am glad I am not working full time, but when I am in those meetings, I realize that God made me to help people.

Tonight we had a family over for dinner who is interested in helping us with the church. It was so fun to enjoy a new friendship. For those of you who don't know, Sarah is not a super friendly child, like my boys are. It takes her quite a while to warm up. We have seen this change some since our move, but she still has been standoffish to other little girls. This family, the Morrison's, have a daughter who is just a little older than Sarah named Holly. Well, Holly arrived tonight, and Sarah actually told me (in front of everyone) that she did not like Holly and did not like friends. She would have nothing to do with her. I apologized for her behavior tried to encourage her to act more nicely but then just let her go on with life. What can you do? She's two! They were here for a few hours, and by the end of the night, she was playing so nicely with Holly and did not want Hollly to leave! I am so excited! Maybe Sarah finally has a friend! I told her mother, Jill, that we would definitely have to get the kids together again soon!

Well, I don't think I'm sticking to the short thing real well again. Plus, I need to get to sleep. Goodnight.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Why Blog?

This is a question I have asked for a while. I just wasn't sure about the amount of time it might take me to write something or if I would even have anything much to write, but when Brent started blogging, and predominately about the church plant, I began reading his blog and then others and found that I kind of enjoyed it. Also, it occurred to me that Brent does not blog much about our family (I'm not being critical, just factual) and some people might want to hear how we are doing or what we are doing. So, I decided to try this whole blogging thing. If I blog once and never again, you will know it was not for me in the end.

So, we are pretty settled in Bakersfield, and we really like it here, despite all of the negative things we had heard. It is hot, but we really do not think it was any worse than Oklahoma. We love our home and have made some great friends! We do continue to pray for friends for James. He has a friend, but he will be going to high school, not junior high, so at this point, James will enter school not knowing anyone there. That is a little overwhelming to him, especially because the junior high has 1200 students in two grades, just a little more than his previous school, which had 80 in all grades (pre-k through 12). We just pray for and with him about it. I have to say that it is a little anxiety provoking for me as well. I do not believe I should be home schooling this year, and I know that Christian School is not an option, but sometimes I just want to shelter the kids from all that is out there, and keep them huddled inside the house. I am excited to get involved in the schools and continue to pray for opportunities there. And, if something happens and I need to pull them from school, my experience last year homeschooling, showed me that I can do it, which I did not think before.

Jason has one great friend who will be at the same school, so I am not as worried about him, at least not socially. Academically, however, I am a little nervous. I still question whether or not he is ready for fourth grade, but they will not hold him back based on my recommendation. They have to have a recommendation from a school teacher, but he does not have one other than me because he was homeschooled last year. So, what they do is put him in fourth grade; then if he is not successful, at 30 days, they will put him back in 3rd grade. Obviously, not the best thing to do for a child socially. Again, if that happens, I will just homeschool him in 3rd grade again and put him in fourth grade when the next school year begins.

As for David, they do not have pre-kindergarten here, so I looked into preschool - terribly expensive. One place I called was$220.00/month for two half days/week (8 a.m. to noon). Another was $190.00/month for two half days but they did include breakfast!!! The other was $120.00/week for three days. I never asked if it was all day or just a half day, but I assume all day at that price. Anyway you look at it, it is not in our budget. So, I have a couple more phone calls to make to see if the Mother's Day Out programs are any less expensive, but there are not very many because most women work in this city. I guess we will do play groups and some homeschooling. As crazy and active as he is, he is pretty bright, and I think if I work with him, he might enjoy what he can learn.

There's nothing to report on Sarah as far as school goes - thank goodness, she is growing too fast as it is. She is talking so much and is so sweet. She does, however, display a rather spoiled two year old side some of the time. She spends a lot more time on her bed now than she did a month ago! Like her mother, she is not a morning person and mornings are the worst. She gets mad if her cereal is not served just right. But for the most part, we just enjoy watching her and listening to her.

I am excited for the week because I have made some connections with some social workers here and will be volunteering at a youth workshop this week. I don't know what to really expect from it, so I will try to explain more later, but I believe it is for teenage foster children to help them learn different skills but first to address some of the baggage in their lives. I miss doing social work sometimes, and this will give me an opportunity to be involved in that. I am hoping to connect with a teenage girls who I can then mentor.

God is good. He provides for us in so many ways, both big and small. He has granted me this opportunity this week, and I know he will provide friends for James and direct Jason's academic path, as well as give me the energy to keep up with David without a break. He has provided friends for our family. He has provded for us financially. I just definitely feel blessed!